GP numbers continue to fall year-on-year as new NHS workforce data shows that there are 254 fewer fully-qualified GPs than last year.
In September 2022 there were 27,556 full-time equivalent (FTE) fully-qualified GPs, and this has fallen to 27,302 last month.
NHS Digital’s data also showed that the number of FTE qualified permanent GPs fell by 188 over the same period, from 26,867 to 26,679.
This is at a time when GPs are delivering roughly 32.6 million appointments, an increase of 3.4 million since last year, and the highest figure so far this year.
GP partner numbers are also continuing to fall – last month there were 16,342 FTE, which is a drop of 44 since last month and a drop of 408 since September 2022.
This also represents an 11% decrease since the September before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 18,462 FTE GP partners.
Earlier this month, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he had not reached a ‘firm conclusion’ on the future of the partnership model, but highlighted that being a partner is ‘unattractive’ to new generations of GPs.
Dr Rachel Warrington, a GP in South Wales and spokesperson for the Rebuild General Practice campaign, said that ‘decades of NHS neglect and underfunding’ means the family doctor is a ‘thing of the past’.
‘The decline in GP numbers is no surprise to patients and profession, but it needs to be a wake-up call to political leaders to help us to rebuild general practice, provide proper funding and a plan to retain doctors,’ she added.
The Rebuild General Practice campaign, which was launched by the BMA and now-Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last year, recently commissioned a survey of 4,000 people which found that 57% want to see the same GP every time they attend an appointment.
Head of health and protection at consultancy Broadstone Brett Hill said: ‘Declining GP numbers are only likely to heap more pressure onto an already strained system.’
He added: ‘The government has continually pledged to increase the number of GPs to ease delays and the pressures on the health system but the trendline is pointing in the wrong direction while population growth is adding more stress on the system.’
However, earlier this week, a group of influential MPs warned that the ‘unfunded and uncosted’ plan risks building on ‘unsustainable’ financial pressures.